Boiled Mutton with Caper Sauce

Now there is no point in making this classic dish unless you have a real gigot – and a real leg of mutton must be from an animal at least four years old, and preferably from my friend John Noble’s estate in Argyll where the weather, as you indeed call this particular kind of beast, grazes undisturbed upon the vast acres of bog myrtle, heather, rosemary, parsley et al. to its heart’s content. Or until summoned by its lord and master, the laird, to its final resting place upon the battered silver plate that adorns his groaning dinner table, which is where I sat with him in the first-floor dining hall, gorging on this simple feast and glugging fine claret as the winter sun glinted on the loch below. Should you have such a thing (and it must be mutton, not lamb) then keep it for two to seven days in a cold larder before cooking as this improves the flavour and tenderness of the meat.

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Ingredients

  • 1 leg of mutton (gigot)
  • 6 leeks
  • 2 swedes
  • 6 carrots
  • 4 turnips

For the caper sauce

  • 1 oz (225 g) butter
  • 1 oz (225 g) flour
  • 5 fl oz (150 ml) warm milk
  • 3–4 tablespoons capers, drained
  • Salt and pepper

Method

Put the gigot in an oval-shaped pot, cover with water and bring to the boil very slowly. Skim the fat off the top. Chop the vegetables and add to the pot. Boil for about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Melt the butter, add the flour and stir to a creamy paste. Pour in the warm milk and whisk until smooth. Now add about 5 fl oz (150 ml) of the stock that the mutton has been cooking in and simmer gently for about 20 minutes until you have a very smooth sauce. Pop in the capers, check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.

To serve, garnish the mutton with slices of carrot. Pour the caper sauce over the joint and surround with the boiled vegetables. Mashed turnip or cauliflower makes a delicious accompaniment.

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